by ANDREW M. STREIBER, DVM

Q:  Our almost two year old Lab/Shar-Pei mix randomly yelps in pain and pulls up his front left paw.  This has gotten more frequent in the past week or so.  He does this whenever he is playing, jumping up and down, and whenever he is petted around his neck area.  However, it doesn’t happen all of the time.  We do not notice any abnormalities in his body  or tenderness when we run our hands anywhere on his body.  Kenai has been microchipped between his shoulders, but this procedure took place over a year ago.  Is there a possibility that Kenai has a pinched nerve or something? If this is the case, what can be done to make him better?

A:  Regarding your dog’s pulling up lame on its left forelimb, the primary categories to be differentiated between are the following: is this an orthopedic issue or a neurologic issue?  Orthopedic issues in a dog this age tend to be congenital / developmental.  A few possibilities are panosteitis, elbow dysplasia, or osteochondrosis dessicans (OCD).  Given that your dog is still relatively young, part Labrador retriever, and that you notice this when ever he is playing, I would probably rank congenital /developmental orthopedic issues higher on my list of possibilities.  However, neurologic issues must still be considered.  One such example is a phenomenon known as “root signature,” which is not that dissimilar to the term you used, “pinched nerve.”  Given that Kenai vocalizes when being petted over his neck would also have me considering a neurologic issue.  I don’t believe his microchip is a source of his apparent pain.  Ultimately, the diagnosis will dictate the treatment.

Knowing a bit more about Kenai such as his lifestyle, indoor, outdoor, long walks, hikes, swimming or trips to the park, would be helpful history to have.  I strongly recommend that you have your dog seen and thoroughly evaluated by your veterinarian. A complete history, meticulous physical exam, attempt at isolating the source of the pain – neck (cervical spine), left shoulder (OC or OCD), left elbow, left foot or toes of the left foot, x-rays of the limb in question and possibly blood work.

Credit: Reviewed by Andrew M. Streiber, DVM

(WEBVET  3.30.09)